At IAVA’s historic Commander-in Chief Forum, the most powerful moments of the evening were when veterans themselves looked the presidential candidates in the eye and asked them about their plans for veterans and service members. Many of the issues discussed are challenges that IAVA has been leading the fight on since IAVA was founded 12 years ago.
The following are the questions asked at the Forum by veterans with an overview of what IAVA has been doing to solve these problems:
Question #1–VA Oversight, Accountability, & Reform
“Yes, Secretary Clinton, last October you said that surveys of veterans show that they’re overall satisfied with their treatment and that the problems with the VA aren’t as widespread as they’re made out to be. So do you think the problems with the VA have been made to seem worse than they really are?”
-Kenneth Anderson, SGT USMC (3x OIF, Arabic Translator)
IAVA Advocacy on VA Reform
- On VA disability claims, IAVA created TheWaitWeCarry.org to give a voice to the stories of thousands of veterans stuck in the VA disability claims process. This website was later expanded to show wait times for medical appointments as well. Secretary McDonald and the VA recognized this website as a valuable tool to connect vets in need.
- Supported and advocated for the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), the reform bill proposed in response to the wait times scandal at the Phoenix VA.
IAVA Recommendations and Advocacy
To reform government for today’s veterans, IAVA recommends and is currently advocating for the following:
- Broadly reforming Veterans Health Care to finally recognize an integrated network of high quality and timely care through engagement with the VA on the myVA transformation and broader conversations around the recommendations put forward by the Commission on Care;
- Advocating for and having oversight on the implementation of VACAA (integration of Community Care programs, Commission on Care oversight); and
- Advocating for the passage of “VA Accountability and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016” (HR 5620), which will bring oversight and accountability to the VA, while also helping to end the VA backlog through the passage of newly developed appeals reform.
Question #2–Suicide Prevention
“Mr. Trump, I wanted to ask what your plan will be to stop 20 veterans a day from killing themselves?”
-Rachel Fredericks, USMC (OEF/OIF Era Vet–transcript said she was stateside, Aviations Operations)
IAVA Past Advocacy on Suicide Prevention
IAVA worked closely with Congress to create and pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act, which was signed into law on February 12, 2015. This law helps to end veteran suicide by increasing access to mental health care, better meeting the growing demand for mental health care providers, and increasing the accountability of the VA’s mental health and suicide prevention programs.
- IAVA worked with the White House to develop Executive Actions to address the mental health needs of service members and veterans, which were announced in August 2014.
- IAVA worked hard to pass legislation in 2007 to establish the Veterans Crisis Line and has continued to have a close partnership with the Veterans Crisis Line through our Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP).
IAVA Recommendations and Advocacy
IAVA continues to combat suicide among our troops and veterans by:
Advocating for the “Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016” (HR 4683), which takes veterans with other than honorable discharges and makes them eligible for VA care; advocating for the passage of the “Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act” (HR 2915), signed into law earlier this year; and asking for and received a commitment by VA to elevate the Office of Suicide Prevention to a Secretary level.
Question #3–Military Sexual Trauma/Military Sexual Assault
“Mr. Trump, I have a daughter who is interested in joining the service, but when she researched the military, she saw the stats on sexual assault and decided not to go. I have a concern about the rape of women in our armed forces. As president, what specifically would you do to support all victims of sexual assault in the military?”
-Donald Day, USMC (Vietnam, Radio Operator)
IAVA Past Advocacy on Military Sexual Assault
- Advocated for many years for Senator Gillibrand’s “Military Justice Improvement Act” (S. 1752) to be included as an amendment to NDAA.
- IAVA Recommendations and Advocacy
In order to help prevent military sexual assault and trauma among our troops, IAVA recommends the following:
Ensure full funding for DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPR);
- Determine additional support systems needed for male survivors of sexual assault; and
- Place authority for cases involving serious crimes with an experienced, independent military prosecutor instead of the chain of command.
IAVA more broadly recommends that we have a national conversation about women veterans, celebrating their service and recognizing their critical role in the force.
Our Commander-in-Chief Forum may be over, but this conversation isn’t. Our forum set the stage for the rest of the campaign season, and for years to come. However, many questions were left unasked and unanswered. To support our advocacy in upcoming debates and conversations with the presidential candidates submit your questions here.
For information about all of IAVA’s Policy work visit IAVA’s Advocacy Hub.